Learn to have a Bee Better garden with one simple mantra: Right plant for the right place. Seems simple enough. Yet, not following this mantra is often why gardening goals aren’t met.
Here’s Bee Better’s take on right plant, right place. Understanding these five essential elements will help you have a Bee Better garden.
There’s a lot of talk about zonal denial, micro-climates, and changes in our hardiness zones due to global warming. If you’re a risk taker and know your garden well, then by all means push the limits with your gardening zone. Just remember, we Bee Better gardeners aren’t about finding plants to WOW us; we are about plants that WOW the wildlife. Further, often the new cultivars, even native ones, don’t support the wildlife we want to attract anyway. Let’s know our zone and plant to benefit the birds, bees, and butterflies.
We need to accept the soil we’re dealt. Many would argue only to grow native plants that are suitable for the native soil in the area. Of course, this is one way to garden. In our area of the Piedmont region of North Carolina, area soil is either clay or sand. In the heart of Raleigh, it’s all clay. As you move east outside of Raleigh, you’ll find sandy soil. The current practice is never to amend by disturbing the soil structure; rather amend by adding a thick layer (3-4 inches) of compost on top of the soil and let nature take her course. Then, top dress with compost annually. The earthworms will do the work for you.
In any garden soil type, you cannot go wrong top dressing with organic matter. The organic matter will allow clay soil to drain (in time) and help sandy soils retain moisture. Top dressing the garden beds with a lush, thick layer of mulch each year to moderate the soil temperature, suppress weeds, retain water and tiding up the garden. This mulch will break down to naturally amend the soil. By doing so, you’ll have a happy Bee Better garden.
Full sun, part sun, part shade, dappled shade, full shade, afternoon sun, morning sun, winter sun, more sun. Know your sun. If the plant tag says full sun (6 hours or more a day), then that means it needs full sun. Anything less, and the plant will not perform at its best. Remember this: The north side will have the least sun, the south side the most. The eastern side will have cool light, the western side hot. Of course, all this depends on what’s above and if it’s deciduous. There is nothing mysterious about this. Take the time to identify areas in your garden and track each hour. To see the effects of the sun’s angle, track around March 21, June 21, September 21 and December 21. The results may surprise you. Also, this practice is good to repeat every few years as your plants (and your neighbor’s plants) mature.
The last thing we want to do is deny ourselves a plant based on watering needs. But we need to be prudent. Garden water-wisely. Map your beds into three watering zones: Oasis, Transitional, and Xeric. When plant shopping or sharing, make watering needs a high priority. With gardens designed in zones, it narrows down
where a plant can go in the garden. Having a mental map of your garden makes garden purchases easy. You’ll think more clearly of where the plant can go. You’re not as likely to purchase a thirsty plant requiring shade if the only area with moist soil is in your Oasis zone, and it has sun.
Bee Better gardens welcome all wildlife; even when certain wildlife aren’t desirable to you. We each have our critter challenges. For some, it’s deer, others moles, voles, and armadillos. For you, it could be rabbits. It’s about balance. Some gardeners will use repellent sprays, but this involves diligent and timely work. Sprays require an exact schedule, and most, requiring spraying again after a rain. These repellent sprays do work but need to be kept up.
Consider replacing plants that are favored by certain wildlife for natives that go untouched. For example, introduced hostas are a favorite with deer, and only benefit scant wildlife. Instead of growing hostas, grow native false Solomon’s Seal (Maianthemum racemosum, syn. Smilacina racemosa), grow our native false Solomon’s Seal. This native has similar culture requirements to hostas, and are resistant to deer.
Follow the mantra of the right plant, right place, do what you can and except what you can’t, and you’re good to go!